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A bunch of great reasons to locum - that have nothing to do with money

Why do locum work? OK - so you might be seduced by the attractive rates of pay, but if that is all that drives you then I foretell that you will quickly run out of enthusiasm.

There are in fact many reasons, other than financial, why locum work can be a rewarding experience. Here is a brief, but not exhaustive list:

  • Break of routine: Are you in a professional rut? A locum is a great circuit breaker. Stepping out of your comfort zone can be refreshing and will allow you to return to your regular life re-invigorated.

  • Perspective: Statistically, you work in a well-to-do metropolitan area. Seeing “how the other half lives” might just revive the idealist medical student within you.

  • Expand your horizons:  If your idea of travel is five-star resorts and cushy conference junkets you are missing out on memorable, and even life-changing experiences working in rural, remote or indigenous communities.

  • Re-skill: When did you last treat a patient from first presentation to discharge, or delivered a baby into the world? Have your ER and minor op skills atrophied in your urban practice? Locum work reconnects you with the front-line medical skills you used to enjoy as a younger doctor.

  • Learn self-reliance: Without your usual support and referral networks you will have to be more resourceful and adaptable. Relying on your clinical instincts more can be very affirming and confidence building.

  • Network: Locum work allows you to interface with colleagues far from home and offers a great opportunity to pick up some new contacts, skills and knowledge from outside of your bubble.

  • Share: If you have special clinical skills or knowledge, you can bring these to regional areas that might not otherwise have access to such expert training or advice. Teaching will allow you to leave a greater legacy than just the hours you put in.

  • Contribute: Remember - the reason that this hospital or practice hires you as a locum is because they have a desperate need. You are providing an invaluable service to them and the community they serve and that is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly.

  • Humility: Perhaps you are a "hot-shot" where you come from, respected by colleagues and loved by patients, etc. It can be healthy to leave your ego at home for a while. You may find that the process of earning respect on merit, not reputation is liberating and, indeed humbling.

... and so on and so forth ...

So what is my point? I guess, dear reader, my motivation for writing this piece is two fold:

Firstly, I have met some locums (not many) who are purely motivated by the money and I observe that they are often cynical, bitter and clinically disengaged (and therefore dangerous). I would caution strongly against doing locums purely for cash. It is unlikely to be a fulfilling experience for you.

Secondly, I have worked alongside some doctors (not many) who resent locums based on the assumption that money is all that drives them (and, ironically that they are making more of it). If you are inclined to think this way I implore you to consider the fact that there may be other motives moving the colleague beside you.

If you are still unconvinced ... send them home and you can cover their shifts and on-call.

Dr John Bethell

Director, Wavelength International

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Comments

  • Jodi Knapp, Today's Hospitalist 07/05/2013 10:20pm (4 years ago)

    An informative and positive view on the locum lifestyle. Locum hospitalists have been viewed as necessary and even beneficial, as well as a good fit for hospitalists, but we just published an article that shows a different side and highlights some of the issues associated with locum, most notable being cost and instability. The need is there, so a balance must be struck, and true to what you write, the motives behind taking on locum should be pure. If you are interested in reading: http://bit.ly/locuminhospitals

  • jbethell66 08/05/2013 3:38pm (4 years ago)

    This is an excerpt from a conversation on one the the LinkedIn groups I host for GPs

    "Locum jobs were really created for those who were retiring or unable to sustain the strain of full time work.But in reality it has just made the culture into one for purely money and incapable of forming relationships with people or places where they work (this was actually pointed out by all my students). It does not nurture much connection or a sense of belonging in the communities they work in either (for example, some locums refusing to do something purely for charity in the place they work or going out of their way to help).There are those who really have no option but to locum (such as high demand family commitments, full time educators, travelers, retired full timers, etc), but I am sure most agree that does not apply to the vast majority of locums.It will be interesting to see what the raft of new graduates does for locum jobs and whether that changes the current attitudes."

    My response:

    I am sorry to hear of your negative experiences with locums. As stated in my article there are definitely locums who fall into this category but it seems we disagree on the ratio as we find that they are very much the minority.

    Could I suggest three things that might improve your experience of locums.

    1. Pre-Screen: Perhaps a questionnaire to filter out the ones that do not conform with the values you expect of them. Hiring a locum is a mini recruitment process and whilst you do not want to go to exhaustive lengths for a short term placement, a couple of well placed questions over the phone before you hire might save you some grief once they start work.

    2. Set expectations: Again, a quick 5 minute conversation before you accept them for the job can give you an opportunity to clearly state the behaviours that you expect of a locum. If they do not like it then they will likely withdraw from the process themselves. Those that do come should not be surprised when you re-iterate your expectation once they are on site.

    3. Create a welcoming environment: We talk to locums all the time and it is quite clear that they are much more inclined to engage positively with the locations that make them feel welcome from the start. Some places exude natural warmth because of the personalities involved but it is possible to set some systems in place to ensure that the locum has a positive experience from the outset - milk in the fridge, induction process, welcome letter, dinner with a partner first night, etc.

    I hope this is helpful.

    Dr John Bethell

  • jbethell66 08/05/2013 3:49pm (4 years ago)

    Another comment from a LinkedIn group

    "I did a year of locum work before settling into a General Practice. It was invaluable to me as I learnt what I wanted in a future practice and what I didn't want. Quite a big eye opener in some practices and admiration for others. It was definitely worthwhile."

  • William LeMaire MD 09/05/2013 9:51am (4 years ago)

    Besides doing an occasional locums to: get out of the rut; broaden horizons; meet new people; etc, locums work can become a very satisfying way of life, as it did for me from age 55 till about now.

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